Since the 19th century, resorts catering to gamblers have existed, and in the 1900’s, Florida saw conflict on the issue. Proponents of gambling managed to advance gambling, while the slightly-slower opponents failed to shut it down. Currently, Florida has continued this internal battle over gambling, and just how much regulated gambling the state of Florida wants to allow.
State Regulated Gambling
Much like most other states, the state of Florida currently allows gambling in charitable and pari-mutuel settings. However, Florida also offers state lotteries, Indian casinos, and racetrack/casino combinations, known as racinos. While Florida Statues Chapter 849 regulates which forms of gambling have been approved. Legal Gambling (which is not included in Chapter 849) is parimutuel wagering establishments that operate cardrooms, charity games, amusement arcades, and some game promos. The principal age for being able to engage in all gambling activities is 21.
Native American Casinos
As one of the states in the country that allows casinos on tribal lands, there is a growing conflict that currently surrounds the large amount of revenue the tribes make from these tribal indian casinos. In 2014 Florida has 557 federally-recognized reservations and approximately 33% put to use some form of commercial gaming in order to generate revenue. The Seminole tribe, a large tribe in Florida, is most known for utilizing gambling in order to generate revenue. For some Indian reservations their casino is often times their only business that is successful and shows a profit . This is more true for the smaller tribes which are located in areas with a larger population or tourist/vacation area.
Future of Gambling in Florida
Florida has seen a great expansion of gambling. The operating hours for casinos in Florida have extended from 12 hours a day during the weekdays up to 16, while on weekends casinos have the option of remaining open for 24 hours. The casino slot machine games increased from 1,500 to 2,000, while poker rooms have raised the betting stakes. Pari-mutuels, which are supposed to reduce illegal betting, also offer tournament jackpots. This “jackpot” type of group betting is a way for people to pool their money together with odds. Potential returns are always updated on these machines, so the gamblers can see their real odds of winning. The expansion of gambling also stands to affect Indian gambling entities. The Seminole Tribe are in competition with non-Indians operating racinos, or a casino/racetrack competition. In reality this is not a true competition since the Seminole Tribe are not taxed and non-Indian racinos pay a 53.5% prohibited gaming tax. As Florida is considered to be the seventh U.S. gambling state, the anticipation of completely-legalized full gambling has the state of Florida excited. It could result in Florida becoming the top state in gambling.
Gambling Specifics in FL
While Florida law is full of general information about gambling, the law itself is a bit quiet on the topic of online gambling. It is a second degree misdemeanor to engage in unregulated gambling in Florida (Section 849.08). The statutory definition for gambling by state is: “any game at cards, keno, roulette, or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value.” I would assume the “cards” part would cover poker and blackjack. Poker games that take place at cardrooms arr 100% legal by Florida Law. These cardrooms must be fully licensed by the state and follow all regulations. Low stakes poker games played at your residence are 100% legal, if played by certain conditions.
While certain details of Florida law can be applied to the online poker and casino games for real money, no one has ever been charged with for illegal gambling online in the state of Florida. Therefore, we are unable to determine how the current laws exactly apply to online gaming but as of now it appears to be illegal but not enforced in any way. We are hopeful that the Federal government will pass a bill for regulated online poker, which in turn will revive Florida’s push for legal regulated poker online. Florida may also follow in line with its tropical sister on the west coast, California, to create a larger larger pool of poker players. As it does not involve the state of Florida acting first, we see them waiting to see what happens with other states and then going forward if the other states are successful.
In 2013, the gambling research company Spectrum Gaming Group released a 464-page report describing the condition of gambling in Florida and how 12 scenarios of legislative action could play out. These scenarios included the projections of state revenues, as well as social impacts on options such as state-wide gaming tables at pari-mutuels, or allowing destination casinos only in South Florida. As mentioned, Spectrum examined twelve scenarios as part of the report. The New Jersey-based company has compiled similar reports for two others states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Both states, as well as Senate members, have attested to the reliability of Spectrum’s information, but also lament the sheer number of variables. As in many other states, the issue of casinos is a multi-sided affair, with some sides in support of the expansion of gambling, and other sides opposed. The pari-mutuel organizations, the Seminoles, destination casino interests, and those philosophically opposed to gambling each have an opinion on the Spectrum study. Ultimately, everyone has enough data to support their argument, and whichever conclusion you reached based on the data ultimately depends on which party you talk to – and therein lies the problem with the Spectrum study.